Tag Archives: Derrick Rose

Evaluating The Knicks Point Guard Play

(Note: I began writing this and collecting the data on February 27th, so the numbers may no longer exactly match, but are still directionally correct)

Farewell, Brandon Jennings. You lasted about ¾ of yet another disastrous Knicks season. It was unspectacular to say the least, but you can at least contribute to a real playoff team going forward:

I originally had the idea of trying to measure which Knicks point guard, Rose or Jennings, was more impactful this season. However, trying to decide which Knicks point guard was better is like deciding between buying a 2000 Honda Accord and a 1999 Toyota Camry. They’ll be helpful in spurts, but it’s misguided to expect big things from them at this point. So instead of overall impact, I want to take a look at how both guards played when paired with the Knicks’ prodigal son, Kristaps Porzingis.

The Knicks’ primary focus last offseason should have been building around Porzingis long term, so in typical Knicks fashion, they went on a shopping spree for aging vets whose best years are well behind them. Among them were Derrick Rose (trade covered in depth here), recently injured Joakim Noah (undoubtedly the worst signing of 2016 – 4-yr/$72M), Courtney Lee (4-yr/$48M), and Brandon Jennings (1-yr/$5M). The idea behind these moves was that the Knicks would contend for one of the top spots in the East, instead they are now 12 games under .500, have the 25thlowest Net Rating in the NBA, and are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 22 games left on the season. But the largest sin of this team isn’t any of the above, it’s the stunted development of their future centerpiece by poor point guard play (yes, this is subjective a subjective topic, but I believe I have a sufficient amount of empirical evidence on my side).

Though neither Rose or Jennings have been *good* this season, I just want to see if there has been any discernible difference with Kristaps’ play when he shares the court with these two.

Aside from the fact both guards are essentially defensive train wrecks, let us see who is/was a more positive influence (if possible) on the young Latvian through three quarters of the NBA season. First on a per game basis. Rose is averaging 17.6/4.4/3.9 on 46.2/23.6/86.7 shooting on 15.5 FGA in 32.2 minutes per game. Jennings is averaging 8.6/4.9/2.6 on 38.0/34.0/75.6 shooting on 7.4 FGA in 24.6 minutes per game. Both are suboptimal to say the least, but the traditional job of the point guard is to create looks for others, let’s see how these two do so for Porzingis.

Kristaps has been assisted on 250 of his 332 FGM this season. 52 of those have been from Jennings, and 49 have been from Rose. In case anyone thinks those are solid numbers, recent Knick-trade connection Ricky Rubio has assisted notable young big man Karl Anthony-Towns 160 times this season alone. Despite playing eight less minutes per game and making nearly eight less passes per game, Jennings averages one more potential assist per game than Rose (10.5 v. 9.5) and nearly one more assist points created per game as well (11.9 v. 11.0).

KP Time-lapsed Shot Chart via StatMuse
As you can see from the above chart, Kristaps takes most of his shot volume from above the break and inside the paint (though he’s only shooting around league average, it’s still a positive trend). Of his 727 shots this season, 216 have come from above the break (29.7%). For catch & shoot 3-pointers, Kristaps is fourth among qualified 7-footers with a 38.3 3P% on 4.5 attempts per game. Porzingis has also been used as the roll man in the P&R on 142 possessions this season, scoring 1.02 PPP. So I think it’s fair to say he’s effective as the roll man in the pick & pop, as well as rolling to the rim.

Now let’s look at the point guard situation.

Stat dump time. On the season, Rose has played over 200 more minutes than Jennings. Despite this, Jennings had over 60 more assists than Rose up until his release from the team. Rose is 29th in the league among just point guards in total assists (Jennings 22nd), 41st in steals (Jennings 23rd), has the 15th most turnovers (Jennings down at 26th), and has exactly one game (on November 4th) with double figure assists (Jennings had seven such games). Just for hilarity’s sake, he’s only made 13 3PA on the season. Jeremy Lin has hit seven more 3PA than Rose, despite playing in 37 less games. Among the 120 guards who have played in 45 or more games, his mark is the 5th lowest in the NBA,  and he’s taken at least 23 more attempts (if not more) than those behind him. On the other hand, Rose is 14th among point guards in FTA this year, which is a positive trend considering his last few seasons, but he is still an inherently inefficient shooter.

Not a lot of green
Not a lot of green
Not sure if this is indicative of anything, but there have been 20 instances this season where the amount of shots Rose has taken are greater than or equal to the amount of points he scores in a single game (e.g. 14 points on 15 shots). For what it’s worth, Jennings has 29 of these games, but on eight less shots per contest. There could be several explanations behind that, such as Rose taking a number of shooting possessions to lessen a massive Knicks’ deficit in the third quarter, but it’s still something that caught my attention.

Below are a couple different Knicks 2-man lineups (or the team performance when these two players share the floor). Despite the 2-man lineup of Rose & Porzingis having a higher Offensive Rating, the combo of Jennings and KP had a much better overall Net Rating, better TS% and eFG%, and a much higher Ast%. In terms of league-wide 2-man lineups, the Kristaps-Jennings pairing is has the 153rd best net rating across the 250 qualified lineups. The Rose-KP pairing has the 224th best net rating of those same 250 lineups. That’s the sign of a pair that do not mesh well together.

Jennings & Porzingis
Jennings & Porzingis

Rose & Porzingis
Rose & Porzingis
Below are a bunch of gifs I created courtesy of 3ball, a great search tool for NBA clips. Jennings is by no means a great passer, but he often looks to move the ball early in possessions. As you can see in the below gif, he finds KP striding down an open lane before the Hornets defense can get set.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Jennings also (irregularly) attempts to use KP in the pick & roll. In the first gif below, Porzingis sets a high screen and then rolls down the right side of the lane where Jennings feeds him for a tough bank shot. In the second gif Kristaps looks to set another high screen, fakes it, and then pops above the break for an open trey. I find it somewhat astounding that a player with his unique skill set isn’t used in a similar fashion more regularly. On the other hand, Knicks stay Knicks.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

I realize that I did do some nitpicking with these gifs, but watching the Knicks it seems like I see something below multiple times a game, and not just from Rose either.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Rose still has enough explosiveness to get to the rim (shooting 52.2% there on the year), but too often he chooses to take a contested layup instead of looking for an open man (such as Melo and Kristaps below).

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Rose is 10th in the entire league (of players with 40 or more GP) with 10.3 drives per game. But as you may have have guessed he has the lowest pass % of those 10 players at 25.5%. Jennings only averages 4.3 drives per game, though he passes the ball on 38.8% of his drives.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Considering his high shot volume (15.5 FGA per game), perhaps he should to look to pass the ball a little more. Regardless, he should not return to the team under any circumstances next season.

In an ideal world, the Knicks draft one of the top guard prospects in the 2017 draft to pair with Porzingis for the next decade. That likely will not be the case, so what’s the next best option? The free agent crop looks solid as the Knicks could take a look at George Hill, Jeff Teague, or Jrue Holiday (Steph isn’t making it to free agency). Holiday would be my pick, as he’s averaging 7.4 APG, 8.2 Drives PG, 14.4 Potential APG, has a 53.9 TS% on the season, and actually picks his head up when he gets into the lane:

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY


So what does this all tell us?  Only that the Knicks point guard play has been subpar and it could be hurting the development of KP (as they did him little favors this season). I take that back, Rose and Jennings might not be hurting his development, but they are just slowing it down, which is still a negative factor at the end of the day. In sum, the Knicks have had, at best, below average point guard play in 2016-17, and yet another season has been wasted.


An Analytical Dive into New York’s Newest Addition: Derrick Rose

So…if you haven’t heard, this happened:

*Sigh* I, am not thrilled. I could go on a tangent, but I thought Seth Rosenthal said it much better than I could ever articulate,

I do not remotely understand putting such a package together for Rose. One should be able to get someone with his injury history and contract (and ongoing sexual assault suit) for pretty much nothing. Robin Lopez is a very good player on a very good contract, not someone who gets lumped into such a trade, Jerian Grant is a valuable asset as well, and there was no longer any financial pressure to get rid of Calderon.

The Knicks should be *getting* those kind of assets for taking Rose off the Bulls’ hands, not surrendering them. Even if Rose were his near MVP-level self and a very desirable asset, he’s a free agent *next year*.

There seems to be two main lines of thinking with this trade. The first is that Derrick Rose is still an MVP caliber a very good basketball player, which umm…well…we will get to that shortly. The other reasoning is that this is the first in a line of moves that will end up with a player of Kevin Durant’s caliber in NY. Hope springs eternal, but that’s why we have smart people like Robert Silverman to bring us back to reality:

I’m not super upset with the trade itself, but rather what it represents. The Knicks are #allin on trying to land a big-name free agent (or two or three) over the next couple of offseasons. I’m not sure if they believe Derrick Rose can be one of those guys, but he is the first step in that process. However, star free agents hardly ever leave their respective teams, Lebron being the most recent exception, and even then do they rarely end with good results. I won’t admonish the Knicks for trying to build the best squad possible, but don’t surrender your very few assets on the off-chance you obtain a player who slightly resembles his former MVP-self (which is now five years and three significant injuries ago). Can you name a former all-star that suffered multiple severe injuries and returned to form? I can’t, but we have several example of great careers derailed by injuries: Penny Hardaway, Tracy Mcgrady, Brandon Roy, Grant Hill, and I’m being generous with this list too.

via Bleacher Report

What I find most confounding is what I heard from The Vertical Podcast with Woj. On this particular podcast covering this exact trade, Woj had this to say (I cut out some of the filler),

“I am shocked at how much the Knicks gave up for him (Rose). Robin Lopez was the best contract on the team…that was the best free agent signing the Knicks had made. There was no market for Derrick Rose, there was nowhere for him to go. They had been shopping him, I was told they had shopped him at the trade deadline last year…to me it’s surprising the Knicks didn’t wait/holdout. To me, they should have taken him into space and given up next to nothing.”

Ugh. There were no other suitors. You should be getting assets back for making this deal, not giving them up. Ironically, it was literally a year ago that I defended Phil Jackson for not making any impetuous decisions. Acquiring Derrick Rose is not necessarily a “panic move” in a vacuum, but for what I believe the Knicks are attempting to do, it just may be. Derrick Rose was once the league MVP, and he is now arguably not much better than a bottom tier starting point guard. This is the same team that traded for Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury (among others) after their respective peaks, of course they would do the same with a broken Derrick Rose.

Rose is not an aesthetically pleasing basketball player to watch in the year 2016. His game revolves around reckless drives to the hoop, contested long 2’s, and a glaring lack of defense. Coincidentally, the pace & space era kicked into gear right around when Rose caught the injury bug. So, sure, trade for a point guard who just shot 29% from behind the arc. At least Calderon converted  41% of his threes the last two seasons. But the Knicks don’t want Rose for that. They believe his ability to drive to the paint can help facilitate the pick & roll and find clean looks for Melo and Porzingis. And for this, and this alone, they just may be right.

For the Bulls last season, Rose ran 563 Pick & Rolls as the ball handler. The Bulls scored on 41.4% of those plays, which translated to 0.84 points per possession. That’s the 30th best (17th among point guards) conversion rate among ball handlers who ran at least 250 possessions last season. Rose drove to the hoop 8.9 times per game in 2016, the 13th most in the NBA (Calderon, on the other hand, only averaged 2.2 drives per game). Of all the players who averaged at least 5 drives per game last season, Rose had the fifth-lowest pass percentage, dishing the rock only 23.3% of the time.

In theory, having weapons like KP and Melo will improve these numbers. Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornaceck even said so in their press conference on Thursday. But please remember, everything sounds better in theory and this current construct of a team is one giant question mark.

With that established, there are lots of potential downsides to Rose as well. Let us delve into Rose’s past season stats a bit more (you may have to enlarge the photo below).

MVP Rose v. Current Rose (stats via basketball-reference.com)
MVP Rose v. Current Rose (stats via basketball-reference.com)

To start, his shooting percentages are bad, very bad.

Good thing baseline jumpers are incredibly valuable!!
2016: Good thing baseline jumpers are incredibly valuable!!

He could make up for the fact that he doesn’t shoot well from anywhere on the floor by getting to the free throw line, but his fear of contact means he only averaged 2.7 FTA per game. At his peak, he was getting to the charity stripe 6.9 times a game. Opponents now know he won’t be able to beat you from range, so they are daring him to drive on them. More often than not, they are correct in their assumption that Rose is afraid of contact (I would be too with all of those injuries), and his FG% at the rim suffers.

Of the 105 guards who played in more than 50 games and averaged 20 or more minutes a game, Rose had the 15th highest Usage % at 27.0%. Of those same players, Rose had the 96th best True Shooting % at 47.9% (and his FT% probably brings that number up a bit as well). TS%, a shooting percentage adjusted for three pointers and free throws, is a good measurement for scoring efficiency. The only player in 2016 with a higher USG% and lower TS% was, that’s right, Kobe Bryant. Not ideal company.

On a per game basis, Rose averaged 4.7 APG, good enough for 30th in the league among qualified players, 22 of which were point guards. But assists often overly rely on teammates’ shooting percentages. Assist opportunities might be a better metric. He had 9.2 potential assists per game, good enough for 32nd in the NBA (24th among point guards, one spot behind Jose Calderon), and a 1.78 Assist to turnover ratio. Not terrible, but not great either.

Now let’s get to the good stuff, the advanced metrics. In Rose’s 2011 MVP season, he had a Win Share/48 minutes of 0.208 (11th best in the league), a Value Over Replacement Player of 6.0 (third best), and a Box Plus Minus of 5.9 (tied for third best).

The following stats extend to players who played at least 50 games and at least 20 minutes per game in 2015-2016. This past season Rose had a WS/48 of 0.09 (133rd of 143 players), a VORP of -0.7 (132nd of 143 players), and a BPM of -3.3 (123rd of 143 players).  That is…[sad emoji]. If you want to look at ESPN’s Real Plus Minus metric, Rose had a -4.27 RPM, or the 81st best of the 85 point guards in 2016. If we want to get a little more technical, we can look at Nylon Calculus’ Daily Real Adjusted Plus Minus Metric (or DRE). By this metric Rose had the second worst cumulative rating in the entire NBA (a total of -202.5).

But what if it’s not just Rose, but the players around him? Now the following stats are calculated as points per possession*100. All teams play at different paces, so some teams have more possessions per game than others (and typically score more). Thus, by estimating points per possession, we can evaluate how efficient an offense is run (a team scoring 110 points on 90 possessions is superior to a team scoring 112 points on 108 possessions, make sense?). Below are the Bulls’ 2016 splits with Rose on/off the floor:

via NBAwowy.com
via NBAwowy.com

The Bulls played 5.8 points per 100 possessions better without Derrick Rose on the floor last season. Now what happens if we remove the Bulls’ real star, Jimmy Butler, from the equation.

via NBAwowy.com
via NBAwowy.com

This means that the Bulls have outperformed their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Jimmy Butler and without Derrick Rose. I like to call this the “DeMar DeRozan Effect” or the player looks like a valuable contributor on the floor, but all of the numbers tell us otherwise.

I’m not anti-Derrick Rose. Though it definitely may seem that way, I need my fellow Knick compatriots to understand why I will not call this a “good move.” I’ll concede that he played better after the All-star break, but the Bulls were still a middling offense and were 6.3 PPP better with Rose off of the floor (0.5 Offensive PPP better without him). Rose did not mesh well with all-star teammate Jimmy Butler when the two were healthy together in Chicago, so why is Melo, another ball dominant player with bad knees, going to suddenly make a better pairing? Rose and Carmelo  were both among the top 20 players in USG% last season, and both often need the ball in their hands to be effective. So what does this realistically mean for rising star Porzingis’ development with Rose in a contract year? That’s a good question, one that I don’t really have an answer for, but Porzingis should be the team’s real priority here.

I won’t put up a fuss over dumping Jose Calderon (though he was a very good 3pt shooter). Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant were by no means all-stars, but as assets they are/were valuable to the team. Lopez did a lot of the dirty work, setting screens and boxing out opponents to give Porzingis those opportunities for put-back dunks and open treys (the same plays that made him a Vine star). Lopez was often the Knicks’ most consistent player, and one of their few above average defenders. Trading him just so you can play Porzingis at the 5 seems shortsighted at best (though bringing over Hernangomez from Spain ideally lessens the loss of Lopez).

This same logic extends to second year player Jerian Grant. I won’t go so far as to say he was good last season, but there were multiple external factors that didn’t help his cause. The team focused heavily on the triangle for much of the season, after Grant played exclusively in the pick & roll in college. His struggle to adjust and the Knicks’ mess of a coaching situation did not do him any favors, though it was promising to see the rookie play well over the final few weeks of the season. With that said, he’s still a former first round pick who is under contract for at least three more years. New coach Jeff Hornaceck’s offense utilized a number of two point guard sets in Phoenix. If you’re going to have one PG on a max deal for the 2016 season (Rose), why not have a second on an increasingly advantageous deal as well? Also noteworthy: the Knicks are now in the market for a backup point guard, even with the addition of Ron Barker.

If Grant improves, and Lopez replicates his 2015 season, the Knicks would have had two great, tradeable assets moving forward as the salary cap explodes yet again (and everyone in the NBA becomes overpaid). Instead, they were given away to rent Derrick Rose for a season and a future second round pick. AND let us not forget that Rose is currently being investigated for sexual assault. You couldn’t fetch anything else, Phil?

The only real counterpoint to this trade is that Rose might achieve a level of play close to what it was five years ago. However, when factoring in all of above, I’m not sure how anyone can say that with confidence.

So what are the potential scenarios. Derrick Rose plays bad? The Knicks gain a better draft pick (though likely one not high enough to make much of a difference) and have more cap space in an offseason where 25 other teams will be in a similar position. Derrick Rose plays well? The Knicks’ draft pick isn’t as valuable and Rose either bolts in free agency or the Knicks overpay to keep him (I think he would be eligible for the 35% max with 4.5% annual raises — yuck). I really don’t see what the big advantage was on the NY side of this trade. The worst part of this move is the Knicks organization believe they just did something great, acquiring a former MVP. However, that’s the same guy who’s played in 166 games in the last four seasons (out of a possible 328, not including playoffs).

This isn’t the worst trade this team has made (there are quite a few!), but it’s an unnecessary risk for a team with no proven track record of attracting marquee free agents. To put all your eggs in that basket (this basket = we believe Kevin Durant will come to the Knicks) might work, but historical trends tell us otherwise. I’ve seen this movie before, and it ends with Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose locked up for years to come. The lethal pairing of those two along with Melo would form the best core in the NBA…if the year were 2011 (hint: it’s not).

I believe I have provided more than enough evidence to refute how much better Rose makes this Knicks team. I’ve had people tell me he will improve with a healthy season under his belt. Well, who is to say that his last season (the healthy one) isn’t an outlier and regression to the mean means another injury-plagued 35 game season? It’s certainly up for discussion given the dude’s track record. I hope I’m wrong, I really do, because maybe this will work out somehow. I just don’t believe Derrick Rose is a very good basketball player anymore. Please see below for people who share similar sentiments.